It’s an easy assumption by doing simple math that South Pasadena has one of the strongest and proudest Little League programs around.
Dig a little deeper, examine where all the success comes from, and at its core is a well-oiled machine of hard-working coaches and parents pushing the product’s mission statement.
It comes in the form of: “Little League believes in the power of youth baseball and softball to teach life lessons that build stronger individuals and communities.”
And that’s why many on a local level buy fully into its impact, recognizing the league is one of the world’s most respected youth sports organizations.
No argument comes from South Pasadena Little League President Alberto Ocon, understanding that the behind-the-scenes effort by adults is as equally important as kids making leaping catches and belting pitches out of park. He knows it takes a team effort.
“I am grateful for the countless parents, community volunteers and sponsorships we are so fortunate to have during the year,” insists Ocon. “Without all these folks, South Pasadena Little League would not exist. Baseball, softball and the challenger division bring our community together in a wonderful sport. SPLL strives to have the best fields, develop all players and encourage them to enjoy the game.”
Much of his praise is directed at the City of South Pasadena for all the support it provides SPLL. “Other leagues and their respective cities don’t have the wonderful relationship our youth sports receive here,” he stressed
That’s why Ocon, one of the city’s most likable individuals, says: “I am honored to have been asked to organize a great group of families.”
While baseball and softball receive the largest share of the attention, involving most of the nearly 700 players taking part in South Pasadena play each season, Little League makes a concerted effort to accommodate all levels, none greater than the Challenger Division. Started in the city about a dozen years ago, it is Little League’s adaptive baseball program for individuals with physical and intellectual challenges and it has become a local success story under the guidance of dedicated volunteers like Scott Parker and others.
“Just seeing the kids outside and happy,” is all it takes for people like Parker, organizer of the local league, to come back for more every spring and be part of it. “It’s really about the players getting a chance to play with others like them. It’s about seeing them get some exercise, giving the parents a break, if possible. Some kids can’t be left alone at all, while some can, so it’s good to give the parents a chance to sit in the stands and watch their child play some ball and relax for an hour and a half or more.”
Dr. Leigh Ramos-Platt, a specialist in muscular dystrophy at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, once explained that players taking part in the Challenger Division get a sense of playing the sport like any young person. “I feel they should have this opportunity because Little League is part of childhood memories,” she said. “When you have certain challenges you don’t generally have those opportunities. It’s great that this program gives it to them. They will remember this experience.”
On Monday, a large contingent of South Pasadena Little Leaguers walked down Mission Street showcasing a collection of championship banners earned in recent days and was one of the highlights in the city’s first Fourth of July parade since 2019 after the festive gathering had been placed on hold since then on account of COVID. Taking part was a friendly and energetic Ocon, enjoying the moment after the spectacle’s long layoff.
“The parade is such a memorable event for our players,” he said. “They have a great time giving out candy and waving to all the spectators.”
In recent weeks, the players talents have paid off big as they’ve racked up one big win after another, earning numerous titles along the way while adding significantly to the organization’s already lofty resume. The numbers don’t lie. Championships in the bank with possibly more to come include:
- 2022 Boys Baseball California 9-11 Year-Old District 18 Championship
- 2022 Baseball California Minor League District 18 T.O.C Championship
- 2022 California Softball Junior League District T.O.C. Championship
- 2022 California Little League District 18 Softball Championship
- 2022 California Softball 8-10 Year-Old District 18 Championship
- 2022 California Softball Minor League District 18 Championship
- 2022 California Senior Baseball District 18 Championship
A quick check shows that the 8,10, and 12-year-old district softball divisions have been won by SPLL as all the teams are now headed to Section 3 Tournament play in the days ahead.
On the baseball side, the 11-year-old district division won by SPLL is also going to the Section 3 Tournament. In addition, South Pasadena still has 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds, Junior and Senior Baseball teams continuing to participate in District 18 Tournament, meaning more title banners could be coming the city’s way.
As a reward for its success over the years, South Pasadena is currently hosting District 18 12-year-old and Junior All-Star Tournaments at Arroyo North Fields, Nelson and Burke, respectively, through July 13. Games are scheduled daily at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
The league has also been awarded the Major Softball State Tournament from July 9-14 at Orange Grove Park. Should South Pasadena’s Major Division softball team win the Section 3 tourney it will be playing at home with hopes of reaching the Southern California Regional played at Little League Western Region in San Bernardino by winning the crown.
“Regardless,” said Ocon. “SPLL will host the best of the best in Southern California Little League Softball” when the Major League Softball Tournament gets underway.
There’s no hiding it, Ocon likes where Little League in the city has come, recognizing its roots dating back to 1952 to become the oldest of its kind in the state, to its rise today as a powerhouse, recognized as a one of the best in the business.
“I am extremely proud of all our player’s hard work and discipline to the game of softball and baseball during the regular and all-star seasons,” he said. “Winning District 18 TOC and all-star tournaments is their reward of their dedication.”
Right there that is, alongside their parents, other devoted volunteers and an abundance of city support second to none.